Tony Robbins: Changing Habits to Improve Your Life

This article is an excerpt from the Shortform book guide to "Awaken the Giant Within" by Tony Robbins. Shortform has the world's best summaries and analyses of books you should be reading.

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Why do we do things we know we shouldn’t do? How can Tony Robbins’ changing habits challenge help you adopt empowering habits?

Tony Robbins’ changing habits challenge involves letting go of negative thoughts, questions, and language for 10 days. You’ll rewire your brain to think positively and will establish some empowering mental habits. 

Find out more about Tony Robbins’ changing habits challenge below. 

Tony Robbins: Changing Habits the Easy Way

Before we delve into Tony Robbins’ changing habits challenge, it’s important to understand why we do things we know we shouldn’t do.

Given the importance of decisions in taking control of our lives, why do we often decide not to do things that we know would benefit us? Why do we snack on chips when we know fruit is better for us? Why do we put off working on our resumes even though we constantly complain about our jobs? 

The answer lies in our pain and pleasure associations. The driving force behind all of our decisions—and, thus, our actions—is the motivation to avoid pain and seek pleasure. For instance, when we indulge in a junk-food habit, it’s because we gain pleasure from munching on salty snacks, and we associate pain with eating veggies instead. There are different forms of pain (such as inconvenience and humiliation) and pleasure (such as ecstasy and comfort). Generally, fear of pain or loss is a stronger motivator than the desire for pleasure or gain—in other words, you’ll continue to eat junk food if your love of chips isn’t as strong as your aversion to healthy food. 

As such, Tony Robbins’ changing habits challenge focuses on changing your mindset, which will in turn help you change your bad habits. 

Tony Robbins’ Challenge

Tony Robbins’ changing habits challenge will help you adopt empowering mental habits to transform your life in a positive way. Creating the life you want requires that you don’t just achieve your goals sometimes, but that you reach your goals consistently—and the way to do that is by adopting new, positive habits. After all, your current mental and behavioral habits created the life you have now, which you’re unsatisfied with. Therefore, improving your life will require you to change some of those habits. Even if certain habits helped you succeed in the past, they need to evolve with you on your path to higher levels of success. 

The 10-day mental challenge aims to help you:

  1. Become aware of your habitual negative thought patterns. Only when you’re aware of them can you begin to dismantle them. 
  2. Condition your brain to find new, empowering thoughts to replace the old, disempowering ones. This includes learning to focus on solutions instead of problems.
  3. Enjoy a boost of confidence from the immediate improvements in your life. When you start to feel the success of taking control of your life through new, positive habits, you’ll be inspired to continue. 
  4. Establish new standards, habits, and expectations that will continually improve your life. For example, you’ll learn to enjoy and appreciate the process of addressing and resolving problems, with the understanding that challenges you face are valuable and serve a purpose to guide you toward a better life. Learning to take pleasure in this process will enable you to enjoy life since challenges are inevitable, and if you allow them to frustrate you then you’ll always be upset. 

This mental challenge is a mental and emotional cleanse that will kick start your positive life transformation by training you to be disciplined with your focus, thoughts, and emotions. The rules are: 

  1. Each morning, ask yourself a series of questions to set the tone for your pattern of thinking for the day. For each of the questions, think of two or three answers, elaborate on how it makes you feel, and specify why you feel that way. If you struggle to come up with an answer to any question, add “could” to the question—for example, if you can’t think of anything that makes you happy, try to come up with an answer for “What could make me happy?” 

The Morning Power Questions include: 

  • What in my life makes me happy? 
  • What in my life excites me? 
  • What in my life am I proud of? 
  • What in my life am I grateful for? 
  • What in my life do I enjoy most? 
  • What in my life am I committed to? 
  • Who do I love? What makes me a loving person? 
  • Who loves me? 
  1. Don’t allow yourself to indulge in any negative thoughts, emotions, words, questions, or metaphors for 10 consecutive days. If you notice yourself indulging in a disempowering thought or emotion—or focusing on a problem instead of the solution—change your focus and move on; don’t berate yourself for slipping. However, if you continue to dwell on the negative for more than one or two minutes, restart the challenge the following morning. Even if you’re on Day 9, you must start over if you break this rule.

Anytime you experience negative thoughts or emotions, immediately change your state using any of the strategies we’ve discussed, such as:

  • Changing your focus 
  • Changing your physiology
  • Asking yourself a different question about the situation
  • Using the six steps of NAC
  • Using empowering vocabulary and metaphors

Be cautious not to ignore your problems—rather, the goal is to embody a more empowered state, which will make you more effective at addressing the problems. A good rule of thumb (not just during the mental challenge) is to spend no more than 10 percent of your time thinking about problems, and to spend at least 90 percent of your time focused on solutions and empowering thoughts. Above all, don’t let small things upset you—and remember that nearly every problem you encounter is small in the grand scheme of things. 

Overcome Bad Habits

When you start the mental challenge, you may be surprised to discover just how many negative and disempowering thoughts you routinely have. People often allow these kinds of thoughts to persist because:

  1. They believe dwelling on the negative can be helpful. For example, people often focus on a problem and its worst-case outcome because they believe that this will push them to take action.
  2. They’re too lazy to make the changes necessary to create the life they want. 
  3. They’re afraid of change and uncertainty, and so they remain in the familiarity and mediocrity of their present, negative circumstances.
  4. Their habits keep them stuck in disempowering patterns. 

However, these negative thought patterns are not conducive to problem-solving and action-taking, and they’re likely to paralyze you instead of motivating you. 

This mental challenge will push you beyond laziness, fear, and the force of your habits to create transformative, enduring change in your life. You’ll establish a habit of remaining in an empowered state by using positive words and focusing on solutions. 

Set Yourself Up for Success

Only take on this challenge if you’re absolutely committed to carrying it through to completion. This challenge is difficult, and if you commit to it, you must commit to the discipline it requires to break out of the habits and fear that have been dictating your thoughts up to this point. Increase your chance of success in the challenge by:

  • Telling people around you that you’re committing to this challenge, and asking that they keep you accountable
  • Enlisting a friend to do the challenge with you, so that you can keep each other accountable
  • Journaling about your experiences each day during the challenge, including the obstacles you face and the ways you overcome them
  • Adopting a habit of reading something insightful and nourishing each day
Tony Robbins: Changing Habits to Improve Your Life

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  • How to make transformational changes to your life through small adjustments
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Elizabeth Shaw

Elizabeth graduated from Newcastle University with a degree in English Literature. Growing up, she enjoyed reading fairy tales, Beatrix Potter stories, and The Wind in the Willows. As of today, her all-time favorite book is Wuthering Heights, with Jane Eyre as a close second. Elizabeth has branched out to non-fiction since graduating and particularly enjoys books relating to mindfulness, self-improvement, history, and philosophy.

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